Tag Archives: hip-hop

What’s going on today, you say?

Hello all BTR fans!

Here’s some of the good stuff that is floating around the BTR inter-webs for your enjoyment.

Video Side:

On this week’s Pulse, Jess hits the streets to ask New Yorkers about what St. Patrick’s Day means for them. She also talks to several true Irish about the holiday, and Mayor Bloomberg’s recent remarks (http://bit.ly/f6ih5I)

Editorial Side:

Staff writer, Mary Kate takes a look at what makes drinks truly Irish for St. Patrick’s Day. Forget about the green dye, and find out how water effects the authenticity of your drink, plus more (http://bit.ly/h9ktQF)

Some Good ‘Ol Tunes/Talk:

– DJ RePete breaking down some BTR artists at SXSW this year, with artists like: The Braids, John Vanderslice, Das Racist, Toro Y Moi (http://bit.ly/fDGUcx)

–  On today’s episode of In the Den, DJ Latola honors Irish Week and St. Patrick’s Day. Features a special mix with specifically tailored tunes to celebrate the holiday (http://bit.ly/gsDyNt)

– New Jersey MC David Rush joins Ms. Drama on Major Playaz Radio. A survivor of a fatal kidney disease, Rush discusses his fight against the disease and his new music (http://bit.ly/dOIDo3)

– Learn about the presidents on today’s Radio Dispatch with a new segment. Also, a little bit about Japan, the torture of Bradley Manning, and even some bird talk (http://bit.ly/ih11R5)




Liner Notes: If There Is No Father To His Style, Call Him ‘Bastard’

“To the public he was known as Ol’ Dirty Bastard but to me he was known as Rusty. The kindest, most generous soul on earth.”

-Cherry Jones–mother of ODB

This past Saturday (November 13th) marks the sixth-year anniversary of the death of Russell Tyrone Jones, the rapper more famously known as Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Strangely enough, on this past Monday (November 15th) he would have been 42.

It is a daunting task to try and write a thousand-word obituary on a man I hardly know anything about. Sure, I remember playing basketball to Wu Tang Clan tracks when I was in high school; but that was only as a result of the pressure and persistence of a very close friend or mine who demanded his hip-hop CDs get as much play time as my overdone, and inappropriate in comparison, classic rock repertoire.

It was not long before I began to recognize my own closeted affection for the Staten Island collective, soon thereafter, and much to the surprise of my good pal Chris, I was requesting the Clan each time we got into his truck to head off to football practice, drink rye and ginger ale at a bush party, or cruise the ‘dangerous’ redneck streets of my hometown. What was this kung-fu stuff? I didn’t have a clue. What I did know was this:

Two indisputable certainties: 1) I had no idea what this guy was rapping about, and couldn’t relate to any of it. And 2) It didn’t matter, because oh baby, I too, “like it raw.”

A guy who comes onto the scene with a name like ‘Ol’ Dirty Bastard’ backed by a group called ‘The Wu Tang Clan’ presents an immediate problem–or so one would think. And while I feel guilty now for once thinking this way, the more I learn about ODB, the less guilt I feel. It was shock that became his modus operandi, a style that would separate him from his contemporaries. I speculate that the reaction I got from his music was the very response he was looking for. He wanted his audience to hear his music and watch his performance with a “what the fuck just happened” state of disbelief.

A case in point (his most famous case, to be exact):

One does not jump on stage during the fortieth Grammy award ceremonies (1998) in Rockefeller Plaza to interrupt the “song of the year” recipient speech without full consciousness of intention and desired result. You see, in 1998 the Grammy’s were still not recognizing the rap-portion of the ceremony as a television worthy event; and this pissed Dirty off. Frustrated that the awards for hip-hop were handed out a day earlier, during a non-televised ceremony, despite the fact that the genre of music was over two-decades old and while immersed in American culture, ODB took advantage of this moment to share with the rest of the country the injustices of a biased music industry. While many viewers saw it as a form of “distaste,” others applauded Dirty for his stance against racial prejudices in a country and industry that is supposed to be a leader in the disintegration of exactly that.

A lot can be said about the life of Russell Tyrone Jackson that this article does not have the time nor space for. (As a side not, if you are interested I suggest Digging for Dirt: The Life and Death of ODB by Jaime Lowe, which was the primary research source for this article). I could have spent much of my time filling you in on all of his sexual escapades that led to fatherless and unsupported children. I could have gone into detail over his trouble with the law, time spent in and out of  the US’s notorious and discriminatory prison system, and the somewhat lengthy criminal record he managed to acquire over his thirty-five years in this world. Finally, I could have discussed his personal battle with drug and alcohol abuse, supposed and much disputed mental instability, and the official cause of his death: “Accidental overdose from a lethal combination of Tramadol [a painkiller] and cocaine.” But none of this gets down to the core of the man known as Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

Time is the ultimate equalizer. The further we move away from nineties hip-hop, the more we come to recognize it as a major player to a much greater subversive trend. What we often fall guilty of when thinking about these acts of subversion is that it is individual ‘people’ who make the parts to these cultural shifts. Ol’ Dirty Bastard was one of those people. In other words, while our language is mostly predicated on the idea that ‘hip-hop’ stands alone as viable, sustainable American culture, we should be thinking about the people that made it this way. It wasn’t some anomaly born out of thin air. It was a culture built on the character and subcultural styles of artists and performers like Russell Jackson.

Alas, forget my self-prescribed verbose haughtiness. It is said much better in the vernacular of the culture:

“What’s the world without Dirt? Just a bunch of fuckin’ water.”
– Rhymefest

Link to this article:

– Kory French

Nature of The Beast

“North Carolina has arrived,” claims Pierce Freelon of N.C. hip hop/jazz quartet, The Beast.

For a state mostly known as a forerunner in the tobacco trade, collegiate sports and sweet tea consumption, to assert it’s now the stage for a musical revolution may seem a tad presumptuous.  All things considered however, it’s not.

On the heels of releasing their latest record, Freedom Suite, a ten-track collection of hip hop, jazz and soul-inspired music performed with Nnenna Freelon, GRAMMY-nominated jazz vocalist (and mother), Freelon describes the significance of their location beneath the Mason-Dixon Line in the conceptualization of The Beast’s eclectic sound.

“Freedom Suite is a statement about the renaissance of musicians coming out of North Carolina,” comments Freelon. “Every guest on Freedom Suite is based in about a 30 mile radius, in the middle of North Carolina. That’s really special. The Beast is at the forefront of a burgeoning scene that is giving other music hubs like Atlanta, New York and New Orleans a run for their money. We’re producing some of the most progressive jazz, hip hop and soul music in the country.”

As tribute to hip hop icon, Guru, who passed away earlier this year, Freedom Suite pairs The Beast with such veteran artists and producers as 9th Wonder, Branford Marsalis, Phonte (of The Foreign Exchange/Little Brother), YahZarah, and Geechi Suede (of Camp Lo) to create a compilation of both new and revisited tunes, interspersed with cultural discourse from Questlove, Herbie Hancock, Amiri Baraka, Christian McBride, James Moody and others. Capitalizing on the recording industry’s trend to bridge genres of music with a common message and aesthetic, The Beast created beats and breakpoints from fundamental jazz standards, soul-infused melodies and bebop-style hooks. The result is something unique in form and fashion, echoing the opuses of one very legendary predecessor.

“With Jazzmatazz, Guru innovated by weaving jazz narratives into his poetry,” describes Freelon. “Even though we’re rooted in hip hop, from a songwriting and arrangement standpoint, jazz is at the nucleus of what we do. It was fun to re-interpret classic jazz standards like “Skylark,” and flip hip hop “standards” like, Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop,” on the same record.”

Many remember Guru as a member of prodigious rap group, Gangstarr, a duo out of New York comprised of the late rapper and DJ/producer, DJ Premier. Gangstarr united jazz and hip hop to establish a distinctive voice in the East Coast rap game of the early nineties. Considered a pioneer of the genre, Guru’s legacy lives on not only through his work, but his charitable foundation and various tributes by artists, like The Beast.

Notes Freelon, “Guru was a double threat. In Gangstarr, he paired a calm and focused flow with Premier’s classic neck breaking drums and soulful samples.”

The Beast aims to do something similar with their inventive narratives and classic-meets-contemporary rhythmic forages. Though unsigned at the moment, the group has no lofty aspiration of scoring a record deal that will lead to fame and fortune, rather they intend to manage success on their own. Exploiting the digital diaspora, they’re happy to grant fans easy access to their work, yet they admit the capricious nature of the field has its pitfalls.

“The internet helps because we no longer need the permission of certain gate-keepers to get our music out,” observes Freelon. “It hurts because there’s no quality control.”

To coincide with the release of their collection, the group will play a series of shows along the East Coast, including the NuBlu Jazz Festival in New York this November. Additionally, in December, Freelon and his mother/collaborator will perform several dates in Angola. All in all, the world will soon be introduced to Freedom Suite’s introspective world of experimentation and cultural integration.

“My first love has got to be hip hop,” says Freelon. “I started warming up to jazz around the mid-nineties when my mother began taking me on the road. We went to Japan and Finland when I was 12, and that was my first taste of life on the road: hotels, back stage passes, tour managers, flights. I loved everything about it, and I got to make good friends with a bunch of eccentric jazz musicians. That was the beginning of my relationship to jazz.”

Now it’s a lifelong bond.

The Beast considers such musicians as The Roots, The Experiment, The Foreign Exchange and Kooley High as leaders in the game, and have no intent on slowing down their movement anytime soon. They’ve formed a solid foundation in their home fort that will indubitably spread beyond its borders, as their ingenuity has already earned them many accolades in the press, including the title “jazz and hip hop juggernaut.”

And if they had a million dollars at their disposal?

“I’d spend it on our next music video,” says Freelon. “Isn’t that what Jay paid to make ‘Big Pimpin’?”

Link to this article:


– Courtney Garcia

Liner Notes: The Song That Changed The World

This week’s edition of Liner Notes is inspired by the recent Late Night with Jimmy Fallon clip that is a current online sensation. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you really should check it out .

To sum it up, Jimmy Fallon and guest star Justin Timberlake take their audience through the history of hip hop in less than three minutes. Importantly, they are accompanied by one of the genre’s greatest musical acts ever, The Roots. I must have watched the video over ten times this weekend and was twittering and emailing it out to all my friends. It really is that incredible. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to watch it.

The medley starts off with one very important beat. It has become a musical loop recognized by just about anyone in the modern, western world over the age of twelve. The now eponymous phrase was the beginning of a song so important, that not only a brand new genre was soon named after its opening lyric, but an entire culture—one that is now studied independently of all other cultures in university classrooms across the United States and the UK.

That rhythmic cowbell, bongo drum, and left-hand piano downbeat riff are as recognizable as the opening chords to The Beatles’ “Let It Be” or the opening drum solo of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” Before any words come into the speakers, we get an electric base line along to some simple hand clapping that has as much familiarity today as Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.” And then it starts: the phrase that would change music forever: “I said a hip, hop, the hippie and the hippie, to the hip-hip-hop, you don’t stop the rock it to the bang, bang boogie say up jumped the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.”

I haven’t been able to entirely narrow down the history of the term “hip hop” with complete academic confidence. But one story goes (and please note, I have only verified this through various websites and have done no true scholarly research that can support this urban legend) that Keith Cowboy, a rapper with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, used the term in a freestyle rap session to tease a friend who had just signed up with the U.S. Army. Pretty soon thereafter, other rappers, including most famously now, The Sugarhill Gang, adopted the phraseology into their own rap songs. In 1979 when The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” became a massive hit in the United States, and around the rest of the world for that matter, music critics and African American culturists and writers had a new independent and empowering term for what had been known as “disco rap” up until that point.

This is a very subtle, but very important moment in the history of the culture, and in the history of western society. Calling the music “disco rap” showed a reliability or comparison to other forms of western “white” music. “Disco,” for the most part, was a mainstream, white person’s style of dance. Disco clubs in New York, L.A., and Miami were celebrated in opulence. It was the eighties—times of large spending, economic exuberance, and social divide. At the turn of the decade any fan of mainstream American popular music really only had one of three roads to travel down: 1) Punk; 2) Disco; and 3) Soft seventies rural-rock. Each one of these is a white (and with the exception of Disco), male oriented form of expression.

Black and Puerto Rican DJs and musicians in New York were finding new ways to celebrate their cultural distinction, social class barriers, and ethnic histories through music. By calling what was happening in the Bronx “disco rap,” African American artists were being subjected and pigeonholed into an associative genre that was miles apart in style. There was nothing “disco” about what DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Grand Wizzard Theodore were doing. What they were doing was inventing a new style of composition, one that was worthy of its own name leading to its own identity.

So when universal Zulu Nation founder Afrika Bambaataa credited the term “hip hop” to describe the emerging culture from the Bronx, the African American and Puerto Rican artists who were responsible for it were finally able to step out of the shadow of a gentrified musical class and industry and give birth to a culture that, thirty-odd years later, has changed the dynamics of societies all over the world. Just try and name one culture that does not have its own form of hip hop—from the fashion to the music, and not forgetting the all-important attitude?

I could write an entire book on where it goes from there. In fact, entire books have been written on such a subject. But a much more fun and entertaining way to take in the history of the hip hop can be found in the link mentioned at the beginning of this article. Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake go from “Rapper’s Delight” to “Empire State of Mind” in one furious breath, one jumped up, bang-boogied, beat.

Think of the set scene here: two white, mainstream American pop celebrities (JT obviously a lot more than JF) performing the history of hip hop for a predominantly white audience (shown in the clip) with The Roots supplying the music. It isn’t so much about racial distinction, as it is about the blurring of lines. One has to wonder how much hip hop as a musical genre had to play in that evolution. What was once considered a bunch of lower class, degenerate youths from the slums of Manhattan came to give us an identity that saw a presidential candidate draw obvious reference to a rap song during one of his campaign speeches (President Barack Obama references Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulders” when he “brushes his shoulder off ” in a speech one day after being attacked by Hilary Clinton and George Stephanopoulos during the 2008 Democratic Leadership race

I think it is safe to say that hip hop has modernized the American identity, and it all began with a song.

But who am I to tell you about it. Watch the clip. After all, in the most paradoxical and sincerely hypocritical way imaginable, I believe music should be watched and listened to rather then written and read about.

Link to this article:


– Kory French

Setlist: Party Hour

Chromeo can often be heard on PARTY HOUR

Saturday nights on BreakThru Radio are anything but down time. If you are one of those individuals who enjoys decompressing on a Saturday evening after a long week at work with a good book or a long movie, DJ J Dayz’s Party Hour is not for you. However, for those of you who like to get your night started at the stroke of midnight, then check out DJ J Dayz and The Party Hour (which airs at 10pm) for some of the world’s most fresh and upcoming electronic beats.

Featuring “a great playlist of independent music” from around the world, DJ J Dayz likes the focus of his show to be about mixing up all the genres that add to a great party atmosphere. “The show has everything from dub step tracks featuring Rusko to electro dance by Deadmau5, to the latest releases from Chromeo and La Roux. Plus a mix of independent hits brought to you by Kid Sister, N.E.R.D. and Chali 2na,” J Dayz writes about his most recent program that airs this coming Saturday night. And of course, not to be forgotten, “also in the mix tonight is one of my personal favorite hip-hop tracks of this year, “Monster” featuring some of the hottest MC’s in the game.”

Give credit to DJ J Dayz; the music is far ranging. The title may lead the listener to believe s/he is in for a solid hour of techno, but this isn’t the case. J Dayz covers all his tracks of the great party mixer dropping funk, Euro-disco, drum and bass, and some hip-pop. Regardless of what style it is, it all has one thing in common; it is made for a Saturday night party. Even listening to the show myself right now, I find it hard to not want to go out and hit a club or bar and start my weekend off a little early.

There is more to just hearing the beats. DJ J Dayz walks his listener through the tracks he plays, which is refreshing in a genre that usually overlooks such analysis. After playing a new track of the recently released Chromeo sophomore album Business Casual. “Now some of you may be wondering what to expect from this new album,” J Dayz announces. “Well, of course you know Chromeo holds down a really cool vibe of kind of like eighties retro-electric funk, a nice fusion of sound, kind of has a nice old new-wave sound to it.” It isn’t often house DJ’s give album reviews between tracks, all the more reason to check out BTR’s Party Hour.

This is music that DJ J Dayz calls “crack for your ears … That addictive music.” It’s a great window into the indie scene of techno and hip-hop, and you could get addicted. Kanye West, La Roux, Zombie Disco Squad—there is really no placing one label to it. Perhaps this is why BTR decided on the somewhat generic Party Hour. There is no limiting party music, if it’s good and gets you moving on a Saturday Night or Sunday Morning, it could make its way onto DJ J Dayz’s program.

Link to this article:


– Kory French

AOTW: Phantogram

After paying their dues and opening for the likes of Ra Ra Riot and Yeasayer, Phantogram is finally headlining their own tour next month. As the electro-pop duo from Saratoga Springs, NY gears up for its US tour, which begins September 5th, the buzz just keeps getting louder. At the beginning of this year, their debut album Eyelid Movies was featured on NPR’s First Listen. And just last week, Canadian rapper k-os released a mixtape in which he samples their song “Mouthful of Diamonds.”

Phantogram is a self-proclaimed “street beat psych pop” duo. The band consists of a pair of childhood friends, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, who have known each other since junior high. They left their small town to pursue their respective creative endeavors—but when that didn’t pan out, the two returned home and found what they were looking for in each other.

Barthel’s keen ear for dance club beats and her luscious vocals give form to Carter’s dark lyrics and indie-pop melodies. They each approach the project with different influences—she, with a hip-hop sensibility and he, with an interest in French pop and indie electronica. The result is oddly irresistible. Phantogram’s dance rhythms, shoegaze lyrics and wispy vocals are romantic yet dark, refreshing yet haunting. Somehow, even the most mellow tunes inspire feet to tap and bodies to shake.

Barthel and Carter’s chemistry is undeniable, especially live onstage. They work well together, and they are clearly invested in the music. Barthel’s romantic, airy voice is the perfect match for Carter’s dark, bluesy lyrics. They make the contrast between hip-hop rhythms and indie melodies work.

Phantogram kicks off its first headline tour right after Labor Day at the North Coast Music Festival in Chicago. They’re also making pit stops at other festivals, including the Midpoint Music Festival in Cincinnati, OH and the Treasure Island Festival in San Francisco, CA. Whether they are playing shoegaze-y French pop or jazzy hip-hop, Phantogram promises to get your body moving.

Link to this article:


– Ivana Ng

Hello, My Name Is…

The fundamental goal for any creative artist is to construct a unique identity that will establish their reign in the field. Without a distinct reference point, it is easy to get lost in a sea of monotony and lackluster impressionism.   These emerging musicians have selected names based on ethereal conceptions and an attachment to something greater than they know or completely understand. Perhaps it is by envisioning themselves in lieu of a larger presence that they allow for constant evolution, spontaneity, and an amplified place in the world of music.

Meet Tiye Phoenix: a hip-hop emcee from Jersey. She’s collaborated with some of the finest in the game, including Public Enemy, the Bomb Squad, Rick James, Reflection Eternal, Nas, and Mos Def. Her skills as a producer and rapper have taken her far, but it is the strength of her individualism upon which she prides herself most, and her moniker was selected accordingly.

“Tiye was one of the great Pharaohesses from Ancient Egypt (Kemet). Born in Nubia, Queen Tiye was the Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III, mother of Amenhotep IV (later known as Akhenaten), and mother-in-law of Nefertiti. The phoenix legacy is the story of a mythological bird that represents immortality, resurrection, and survival. I combined the two since they both have roots in Kemetic history. I felt these two names would symbolize a powerful identity.”

Emanuel has traveled to the West and back with his musical compositions and free bird spirit, but it wasn’t until his second go around in New York, that his band, Emanuel and The Fear came to be. An 11-piece orchestral rock group, the collective combines classical symphonic opuses with razor-edge modern beats to create a sound somewhat hipster, somewhat rugged, and somewhat beyond description.

“I called my band The Fear because it’s a major theme in my writing and really everything in life. It’s a theme that I’m into, but that leaves things open for us to represent ourselves in different ways. If we called ourselves Emanuel and The Geeks people might feel surprised by us presenting ourselves as ninjas or something. Fear allows for anything really.”

Wordspit The Illest has no set rhyme or reason to his sonic ruminations, rather he’s out to to have a good time, and perhaps shed some profundity on the world every now and then. The young emcee out of Brooklyn considers himself chief of New York ciphers, and will take on a challenge anywhere, anytime, on any street corner or parking lot (and he dances too). Though he’s solo as a performer, he deems his identity a coalition.

“The Illest is my brand: my music, business team, and fans. We are a unified collective—whether it’s the people behind the stage, on the stage or in front of the stage.  And all the people online who listen to my music too.  I’ve built a lot of relationships off Twitter alone. After the work is done, just connecting with this guy in Ohio who doesn’t know who Wordspit is and being like, ‘Check this out.’ The next minute he’s like ‘Hey, that’s awesome.’  He feels the connection. That’s the Illest.”

Keep checking back to BTR for more band name stories and listen up for music from these artists on BTR.

Link to this article:

– Courtney Garcia